N scale backdrop

Bill’s been back in touch with his N scale backdrop:


As always I continue to look forward to your posts each morning and seeing what wonderful creations peers make and send in.

I’ve taken some days off and put together a backdrop for part of the n scale layout.

With my layouts being portable I wanted to make sure that a backdrop was portable and removable as well. So with that in mind what follows is how I made mine.

I started with getting a full 4×8 sheet of foam board that was 1 inch thick. I figured I could get a backdrop that was 16 inches tall from that and also make a 1 inch filler piece to give me a little depth to work in scenery. I also bought 2 trim strips that were 1/4 x 3 x 8 that I would use as a clamping surface.

On the layout I added a small ledge that stuck out roughly 1/2 inch and was about three feet long for the backdrop to rest on.

I cut one piece of foam board to about 8 inches wide and then traced the outline of the layout scenery on that and cut to shape. This I glued on the full 16 inch foam board with foam board adhesive. Next I drilled thru the trim pieces snd foam board and added in flat head 1/4 inch bolts and wing nuts to hold it all together.

This gave me an excuse to buy some additional clamps so I bought 4 inch capacity ratcheting clamps. Three of these are used to hold the backdrop in place once on the ledge.

Next I painted the backdrop blue and a dark green where scenery would be added. I used latex paint. Any oil based paints will give you a melting disaster.

Once the paint was dry I put it in the layout snd took some pictures so I could visualize what I wanted to paint on the backdrop while I had it at the work counter.

Next I took a few colors of brown, white, gray, and a couple of shades of green and painted out the background I wanted. Once dry I took polyfiber and added it to close the gap on the backdrop and layout. To this I added various sizes of ground foam to build up layers and make an underbrush look.

Trees were made and planted as well. Next I painted white glue on the back drop and used ground foam to give the backdrop a 3D feel behind the real 3D scale trees.

I also have added in continuations of the roads and stream on that side of the layout. While I still have more to do like adding in some building flares and some painting behind the stream and the city piece of the backdrop I’m satisfied with the results so far.

It’s been a fun little project snd makes a huge difference when watching the trains run. I’ll make another for the n scale backdrop and will do the same on the HO scale layout as well. Always fun things to do and try in model railroading

Attached is a link to a video showing how I painted and gave a 3D feel to the backdrop.

Take care!


Bill in Virginia”

n scale backdrop

n scale backdrop

portable n scale backdrop

paint backdrop

portable n scale backdrop

N scale backdrop

N scale backdrop

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

A huge thanks to Bill for sharing his N scale backdrop I do love his stuff – which is exactly why he’s in the Hall of Fame.

It reminds me of Heinrich’s painting a model railroad backdrop post.

And there’s Fred’s painting clouds on a backdrop too.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More N scale layouts here if that’s your thing.

40 Responses to N scale backdrop

  1. Brian Rockey says:

    Great job Bill, very impressive!
    Brian, Wokingham, UK

  2. Phil says:

    I love the effect. I am not sure if you mentioned it but I use a light dusting spray of white automotive pirimer on backdrops. It gives a slightly misty impression and helps with sense of depth especially on the photographic type backgrounds

  3. Peter Waring says:

    Such realistic details, leaves us mere mortals struggling. Love it👍👍👍
    Regards, Peter…

  4. Ian Rogers says:

    That’s great work Bill – not only in your finished product but your step by step explanation!

  5. Mike in NC says:

    Simply stunning,Bill.

  6. george zaky says:

    Thanks so much for the narrative and video. Fantastic job and your talent for creating what you visualize is incredible. Wow!
    Love to see what you do for that other section.
    Up here in NY, my HO layout in my unheated garage is taking a beating with expansion and contraction and, as a follower of your work, I envy that it seems to live in your garage well.
    Be well and safe
    George from LI,NY

  7. Richjard Coerse says:

    Fantastic backdrop Bill

  8. Erick says:

    Pretty Neat.!!!

  9. Rob McCrain says:

    The back scene is very effective. The whole layout is too so far. Great work.

  10. Great backdrop and video. How can I view the first 3 videos?

  11. CARL ANGDAHL says:

    Simple but very effective. Great job.

  12. The only thing I can say is, THANK YOU! to all those how post comments and layouts here and well is on the youtube channels I subscribe to. All of you have motivated me to start my layout. I just hope mine is of good enough quality to show you all. For now, I have finished the benchwork and will start laying my track on the 4 x 8 sheet of plywood.

    I have done one layout but that was over, GOD I just realized I am old, 30 years ago! Which at that time was in our garage and you can guess it did not last long due to the elements it was exposed to! Everything I have read abt layouts that are exposed to those elements doesn’t last long and I experienced all of them. That’s it in a nutshell. Thanks again Bill for the post and videos! I pray 2021 will be a better year for all Americans!

  13. Great layout shows your hard work

  14. John Bullock says:

    Excellent video leaving me asking no questions!

  15. Ernie says:

    Thanks Bill, your back drop is such a great idea and it looks great. Good job.

  16. Thomas C McKelvey says:

    Superb work! The background is already so good, that one has to look very carefully to realize it is not finished. The only thing that caught my eye as being unrealistic each time the camera passed it, has nothing to do with the background. That is the unfinished back of the Purina sign which still looks like a model . Seeing what you have done so far, I have no doubt you will look at an equivalent real world sign, and change the color and add some more fantastic details that will cause me to look right past it because it too will “belong” in the scene! Hardly can wait to see what you do next!

  17. Mark says:

    Hi from sunny Florida.Your layout isn’t great it is fabulous. Since I missed some of your posts I was wondering how big was the layout? You managed to pack it with some great details, I especially liked the 3 D effects

  18. Simply wonderful. Loads of great ideas.

  19. Bill in Virginia says:

    Hi all – Bill in Virginia here. Thank you for the kind comments m. I have a blast working on the railroad and love to experiment. The layout is 3×15 feet in size. A nice length to do some running thru different scenery. The sign back is on my list to take care of lol. All three of them. I will darken the backs of them with chalks and add some birds and birds nests I think to make them look better

  20. Jeffrey says:

    Bill, Thank you for your video backdrop tutorial. This was a huge encouragement to me!

  21. Bill Lindhurst says:

    Virginia Bill, Colorado Bill here, WOW!!! I have NEVER, EVER, seen such REALISTIC terrain in my life (except for the real thing!!). I am amazed at the way the “rock” terrain, or bedrock looks!! Don’t know how you did all that, but even the ground around the buildings looks so natural, and the ballast !!! VERY IMPRESSIVE, Thank You!!!

  22. DJfromNJ says:

    Love the effects you have created, and the instructions are first rate. Well done!

  23. John says:

    As usual, a beautiful end result from Bill.

  24. Brian Olson says:

    Excellent ideas here!

  25. Rick Hamilton says:

    Bill, your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been struggling with a backdrop solution. I have a mountain in the back of my layout, but didn’t have a good way to integrate it with my scenic background. Big smiles here.
    Rick in Reston

  26. matiSon says:


  27. matiSon says:

    Spectacular backdrop! If I had the means, I would attempt to hire you to make a background. You are extremely talented.

  28. Old Ben says:

    You are the best of the best!

  29. Jeff Daley says:

    Bill, Your tutorial is so professionally put together explaining your detail work and very effective. It is truly and inspiration to us all. Thank you!. Jeff in Seattle

  30. Andrew Aves says:

    Thank you Bill, some great ideas that I will be using
    Andrew in Oz

  31. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Bill Great Job!!!! God Bless America on the 21st year after Sept 11, 2001 God Speed!

  32. Rocco Maley says:

    Hey Bill, Rocco from NJ here. A question for you. Please can you tell me how I can view the fist three videos. I love your backdrop and narration of it. Thank you. Rocco from Haskell, N.J..

  33. Charles in NJ says:

    Bill in VA,
    You have captured the finest skills of scenery building and I definitely appreciate the step by step explanations of what you are doing and why. Kudos to you and your fine layout.

    I do have an unrelated question aside from the backdrop. Am I seeing a bow in the track on the trestle that is to the righthand side of the backdrop, once it was placed on the layout? Just curious if my eyes are playing tricks on me.

  34. Frank says:

    You have found a way to create integration and transition between the last flat layer of scenery and the layout.

    Your trees just seem to flow right into or out of the backdrop. It really pops and creates that depth of view we are naturally inclined towards looking for.

    Great stuff.

    Frank in Florida

  35. Brian Olson says:

    I do similar things on my layout, love the “infinity and beyond” visual.

  36. Glyn Jones says:

    Beautiful landscaping realism Bill- congratulations on achieving a real work of art and interesting layout.

  37. Steve Ruple says:

    Bill your backdrop looks awesome, you are so talented, I wish I was that talented. Your layout looks really great, I have seen all of your other layouts and they all look great. Keep up the good work.

  38. robert dale tiemann says:

    really cool, i like it.

  39. Rich B. says:

    Beautiful work, retired over decade now and I just don’t have time. Everything has priorities it seems just to be getting by. But time to go to work? No idea how I ever wasted or had the time doing that every day! How can this be though, an hour every day just walking pups down animal trails lol.

    ‘Spose that’s why I like to see what others have done and not disappointed by any means. Things I know I could/would never do. Hate carpentry for starters lmao.

    Again, Rich

  40. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice work.

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